This Is What Happens When You Give Power to the ‘Chicas’

Chicas Poderosas Conference in Miami, Fl.

Chicas Poderosas Conference in Miami, Florida. Photo: Chicas Poderosas.

“If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation)”.

The African proverb above has help guide the work of Mariana Santos, the founder of Chicas Poderosas, a group trying to increase the number of Hispanic-American women working directly with newsroom technology. Santos knows what challenges women face in this male-dominated industry. Even in the digital age, women journalists in Latin America work at a systematic disadvantage.

Santos is a Portuguese visual designer who's worked for The Guardian, and is currently the director of “interactive and animation” at Fusion. She says digital-media training is still limited and there are still too few programs focused on women, which keeps them underrepresented in the world of technology journalism.

In 2013, thanks to a fellowship at the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)Santos created Chicas Poderosas to help change things in the industry. Staging events and meet-ups, and offering mentoring, Chicas helps women develop news applications, produce interactive content, and integrate new tools into their newsrooms, according to the group's website.

The most recent Chicas Poderosas conference was held at Stanford University last June, where 35 women journalists and developers from Latin America met for roughly four days. Santos summarized the event as “all the best experiences, classes, [and] people I met during my nine months as a JSK fellow.”

Elisa Tinsley, deputy vice president of programs at the International Center for Journalists, wrote about it in the ICFJ blog:

The ultimate goal of the Summit and of Santos’ Chicas Poderosas movement is to help women take the lead in newsroom technology and design as a way to bring women's voices into both newsrooms and the content newsrooms generate.

After the Stanford event, Dow Jones was the first to create Chicas Poderosas fellowships—sending two Latin American women journalists to newsrooms specialized in digital storytelling.

Maria Paula Martinez, from Colombia’s Universidad de Los Andes went to NPR. She expressed her enthusiasm on Twitter:

And Mariana Barbosa, a former La Nacion Argentina student and journalist, went to ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest:

For more information about how to get involved in Chica Poderosa, visit its website.

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